Inevitably, writing the 2016 version of this post seems like both seconds ago and a lifetime away. 2016 was quite the year, and if I wasn’t sure where I’d be at the end of this year, I sure as hell don’t know where the beginning of 2018 will find me. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s a look back at 2016, and a few musings on how the year ahead might pan out travel-wise.
2016 in Travel
After an excellent start with New Year’s in Sweden and a skiing trip to Austria, the beginning of the year was a little quiet thanks to a foot problem that suddenly flared up in February, although I was enjoying a beautiful weekend in an Airbnb in Noss Mayo, on the Devon coast, at the time. Apparently a dental problem can lead to swelling in your feet, who knew!
To celebrate having got over that blip, which included a few fun nights in hospital, I spent a long weekend in Prague with a good friend of mine in April. Having finished university in May, June was pretty much written off thanks to my TEFL course, which was incredibly intense, although I did manage to squeeze in a quick trip down to Cornwall one weekend, where I was persuaded to try to get to grips with surfing again, a few years since having had lessons in Bali.
After spending July teaching English to Spanish teenagers in my home town and pretending I couldn’t understand the inappropriate comments they were making, August took the family and I to Nova Scotia, Canada, for a Uniacke reunion and an exploration of Cape Breton Island. September was a complete whirl with weekend trips to have some quality time with special people before I left on my big adventure. I got on the Eurostar for the first time and nipped over to Belgium for a weekend, went to the Little Orchard Cider Festival down in Cornwall and spent a cosy weekend in Surrey.
Having been unsure about what shape my immediate post-uni life would take, I got an email in April that decided it for me. A placement at the University of Colima, Mexico, between October 2016 and May 2017, being paid enough to survive on and with limited working hours, couldn’t have been more ideal. I got on a plane on October 3rd, and since I’ve been able to see Mexico City, Guanajato, parts of Michoacan (for Day of the Dead celebrations), Baja California and Sayulita, a surf hotspot on the coast of Nayarit. Unfortunately I was a bit ill over Christmas, so I was very grateful to have made it back to my bed in Colima by then, have some downtime and pretty much forget it was Christmas, easy when it’s 30 degrees outside.
I write this sitting in the airport in Mexico City, waiting for Paddy and James to arrive. Tonight I’ll be whisking them off to Oaxaca on the night bus, for New Year’s Mexican style, a few days of culture and then a few days in what promises to be another Airbnb gem, the only house on a beach with perfect surf and a turtle protection centre… Not a bad way to kick off a 2017 in travel, with two of my favourite people.
A big change that I hadn’t anticipated for this year was that I decided to go vegan at the beginning of 2016. I’m not even sure what the spark was, but I wish I’d done it earlier. I’ve cured myself of my unhealthy dependence on cheese, although I have had to eat a fair amount of dairy since coming to Mexico. There are hundreds of travel guides out there telling you how about how vegan travel is a breeze but, at least in Mexico, it’s been tough. As I have my own place and kitchen and wonderful fruit and veg shops nearby, when I’m cooking for myself I can whip up some great vegan meals, but when you’re in a Mexican restaurant faced with a choice between cheese or beans that have pork fat on them, cheese seems like the more appealing option. In a lot of places in Mexico they’re embracing the vegan movement, but Colima is definitely not, so unfortunately its generally a case of being practical and making the best decision I can depending on the circumstances, without inconveniencing anyone.
After the boys leave me (let’s hope that doesn’t come around too quickly), I’ll be spending a few days in Queretaro for a reunion with one of my best friends from my placement in Brazil, and then I’ll be back to Colima mid-January. I started slowly, but during 2016, especially the second half, I’ve been trying to build my translation and copywriting portfolios. After a lot of hard work, I’m now starting to earn a consistent amount of money, which for now is enough to fund my travels whilst I’m in Mexico, which my salary here wouldn’t stretch to.
The idea is to get back to working hard from mid-January onwards and continue to build my customer base and experience. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to call myself a legitimate digital nomad before the end of the year! That is if I ever figure out the mine field that is tax.
I don’t start working again until the end of February, and then I have two weeks off at Easter, when I’m hoping I’ll have another visitor from home to discover the Yucatan Peninsula with! My placement finishes in May, and then, if all goes to plan, I should be being joined by my wonderful parents in June, for a more civilised trip whilst Dad’s here, then some proper backpacking with Mum, who’ll be fresh out of her final exams so needs to act like a student.
I currently have a flight home booked for June 22nd, and I think I’ll be on it. My parents are moving in the summer, so I’ll be around to help with that and enjoy discovering the surroundings of the new house, which, all being well, will be in beautiful Cornwall, which has England’s best beaches and its best cider! It makes sense to me for be home during the summer, both to enjoy the long summer evenings and to pick up a bit of English teaching summer school work for a boost to my funds.
I’m considering doing a Masters in Translation starting in the autumn (provided the government loans are still on offer). Anyone with any tips/opinions/experiences please send your wisdom my way, I need all the help I can get on this one. Either way, I’ll be keeping up my freelancing, so we’ll have to see how it goes.
The other day I was having a conversation with one of my best friends in the world, and she remarked on how, post-university, life suddenly goes a bit mad. I hadn’t really thought about it this way, but whatever happened during the course of a year in the past, whether travel, love or family related, you always had the constant of school and university in your life, and structure of the school year to follow. Now, without that structure and security blanket, literally anything can happen. Cue excitement mixed with terror, the standard quarter life crisis.
Did I keep my resolutions?
I didn’t do too badly with last year’s resolutions. Here’s last year’s version of this post, in which I laid out my hopes for 2016.
- Seize the day. What with the illness at the beginning of 2016, there wasn’t too much seizing going on, but I didn’t do badly over the rest of the year.
- Get out of my comfort zone. Yep, I definitely scared myself plenty by signing up to live in Mexico for a year.
- Learn a new language. Didn’t happen. I half-heartedly did a few weeks of Italian duo-lingo in the summer, but I found myself just guessing based on my knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese and learning nothing at all. I gave up with that and switched to Swedish. After 2 months of duo-lingo-ing, I still can’t string together a sentence, so luckily a trip or two to Sweden are on the cards once I’m back in Europe.
- Notch up the countries. I’ve added Canada, the Czech Republic and Mexico to my list, bringing me to the grand total of 30!
- Be grateful. There’s always room for improvement.
- Blog more. You may have noticed this didn’t happen. Graduating made the first half of the year fairly hectic, and then I was feeling a little homesick when I first got to Mexico and couldn’t bring myself to blog. Then, freelancing work really took off so I never found any time for writing. Hopefully, this year will be a little better and I can find a way to balance paid work and blogging, as I forget how much I love it.
2017 is going to be a bit simpler. Rather than a long list of resolutions I’ll promptly forget about, and seeing as travel for this year has already sorted itself out, I’ve decided to just have one goal, which is more of a personal one. I want to share more. I think growing up with two brothers that would always steal my food if I gave them half a chance robbed me of my ability to share. I think I developed the idea that I’d end up with nothing if I gave anything away! Mexicans are incredibly generous, and I’d like a bit of that to rub off on me whilst I’m here.
Well, that’s it from me for this year. I hope your 2016s have all been wonderful in their own way, and 2017 brings you some magical moments.
Happy new year one and all!